Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Such stuff as dreams are made on...

Benedict Carry reports today in the Science Times on recent research into the role of dreams by Dr. J. Allan Hobson of Harvard.
Drawing on work of his own and others, Dr. Hobson argues that dreaming is a parallel state of consciousness that is continually running but normally suppressed during waking.
Hobson sees this state tuning the brain for what it will encounter while awake. Dr. Mark Mahowald, another sleep researcher, praises Hobson's work for not letting psychological or literary notions of dreams drive his hypotheses.
Most people who have studied dreams start out with some predetermined psychological ideas and try to make dreaming fit those. What I like about this new paper is that he doesn’t make any assumptions about what dreaming is doing.
I appreciated the reporting which restrained itself from making fantastic claims and instead offered competing interpretations and some of the current sleep and dream research of other labs. The article made a point worth emphasizing - this neuroscientific research on the nature of dreams does not empty a dream of its narrative content nor obviate its psychological interpretation. It makes a hypothesis built on neuropsychological bases and tested with the tools of that trade, and offers an interpretation of its results about what function dreams might fulfill in the brain.


J.S. Peyton said...

You might be interested in this week's issue of "The New Yorker" which has an article on dreams called, "Nightmare Scenario: Can we learn to rewrite our bad dreams?" It's pretty interesting reading. You should check it out.

~ Joy

Ted said...

Thanks, Joy. My issue arrived yesterday but I haven't had a chance to give it a look.